A motorcycle helmet is without doubt the most important piece of safety equipment you will purchase for your motorcycle or scooter. In fact, it's the only bit of safety kit that is a legal requirement in the UK but I would still strongly recommend you invest in a full set of protective gear including gloves, jacket and boots at minimum!
When it comes to picking your helmet there are a ton of options out there and a huge variety of styles, makes and price ranges. In this blog we will go over the differences between some of them and a few things to look out for when choosing your new lid.
All helmets sold in the UK must meet British standards and carry the BSI Kitemark or an equivalent European standard mark. Even so, this is a minimum requirement and not all helmets are equal when it comes to the level of protection they can provide.
In 2007 the Department for Transport set up the SHARP helmet safety scheme. This can be a great resource for finding out about your prospective helmet as they run detailed tests across multiple impact points and surface types to give each model a rating based on the results. You can visit the SHARP website and look up any helmet you are considering to see how it performed!
Choose your style
Let's take a look at some of the different styles of motorcycle helmet available as that may be one of the first factors that will help you make your choice. I'm going to cover the main ones here and go over some of the pros and cons of each.
Full Face Helmet
I think this is the most common type of motorcycle helmet these days and is generally the safest because it offers protection against the widest range of impact points. The main advantage of these helmets is the protection it offers for your chin and jaw which if a crash should occur, could take some of the impact. Another advantage is the aerodynamics, especially if you are on a sport type motorcycle or anything that will let you get a nice tucked position.
Most full face helmets will have ventilation built into them to help deal with different weather conditions and improve air flow and there is even special anti fog visors available now to improve visibility. One final note, if you are planning to go to the track at any point, you will need to have one of these as they usually will not allow any other kind of helmet.
Open Face Helmet
The open face helmet is perhaps the second most common style and is very popular among those that ride retro style bikes like cruisers and cafe-racers as well as scooters. Obviously, the lack of a chin bar reduces the safety offered by these helmets but the protection to the rest of the head is just as strong. Some of these come with visors built in, others will require separate goggles but you should always make sure you have some kind of eye protection in place when riding your motorcycle or scooter.
There are also some advantages to these style helmets too. Naturally the open face design means you get a great clear field of vision and it's not going to give the same cramped and stuffy feeling the full face lids can sometimes have.
Flip Up Helmet
Flip up or modular helmets are a combination of the two previous styles. They offer almost the same protection as the full face helmet but can also have the face 'flipped-up' when not riding your bike. This can be pretty convenient during small stops when you don't want to have to keep taking off your helmet completely. Some of the latest flip-ups can even be worn in the open face position while riding too but you will need to make sure the particular model you are looking at has been approved for this.
The only negatives to one of these is that it may have a very slightly heavier weight due to the extra hinge mechanisms and those same mechanisms mean that it also will not be quite as sturdy in the chin and jaw area as a full face helmet would be.
The last style I will cover here is the off-road or MX helmet which is another pretty popular one. The defining features of this helmet are its high peak and elongated chin bar designed to maximise air flow. The idea behind these is to offer a helmet that combines maximum protection with a light weight that can allow you to ride for long periods of time with less fatigue.
These types of helmet aren't ideal for the road and usually don't come with any visor or eye protection so you will need a good set of goggles to go with them. There are also now dual-sport helmets which combine these with the full face style to create something that is more suited to road use. These dual-sport models have padding and full face visors while retaining the cool MX style and functionality.
Finding the right fit
We've already seen there is a large variety of motorcycle helmets on offer with an equally large range of prices, you can get a new helmet for under £100 or all the way up to over £2,000! There are also a lot of good makes out there too which is great because everyone is different and the helmet that fits me perfectly may be completely wrong for somebody else.
Once you have decided the style of helmet you want to go for, the most important thing is getting one that fits you just right. It is essential that you try on your helmet before buying it. There isn't really a replacement for going to a store or motorcycle dealership and just trying these things on and getting proper measurements. Different makes of helmet may fit slightly differently and suit different sized and shaped heads. You are going to be spending quite a bit of time wearing this helmet, so it really does need to be just right.
Trying on for size
Your helmet should fit snugly with the padding around the cheek areas in contact with your skin. Once the chin strap is secure, you should not be able to pull the helmet away from your head and it also should not be able to twist loosely around your face. If you hold the helmet still and try to turn your head or if you shake your head around it should stay snug and in place.
It doesn't want to be too tight either, there should not be any pressure points causing discomfort as something like that can become a big deal when you're in the saddle for hours! A correctly fitting helmet should have its weight spread evenly around your head and not put too much pressure on your neck either. As I said earlier, you are going to be wearing your helmet every time you ride your bike or scooter and it really can spoil the experience if it doesn't fit right - not to mention a loosely fitting helmet can be outright dangerous.
So, what is the best make?
That is pretty subjective. There are loads of great makes out there and some of the most notable include AGV, Arai, Caberg, HJC, Schuberth, Scorpion and Shoei, but these are by no means the only makes worth looking at. I mentioned the SHARP website earlier and here is where it comes in handy, you can check out how any helmet performs and make sure it’s going to do the job.
Different makes all tend to have slightly different fits too, so it really does depend on what feels right to you. Personally, my head is quite small and round and the HJC fits me perfectly. Meanwhile one of my buddies can't get along with an HJC and swears by his AGV lid - which never seem to fit me! I guess the point I'm making is not to worry too much about brand names and just try on a variety to see which one is best for you.
Hopefully this blog will help some of you get off to a good start on your two-wheel journey and once you are all set to go, remember to come back to Lexham for a great insurance quote for your motorcycle or scooter!